Why did J. Kenneth Blackwell seek, then hide, his association with super-rich extremists and e-voting magnates?
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
March 10, 2006
The man who stole the 2004 election for George W. Bush -- Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- has posted a picture of himself addressing the white supremacist ultra-right Council for National Policy (CNP). He then pulled the picture and tried to hide his participation in the meeting by removing mention of it from his website, kenblackwell.com.
First discovered by a netroots investigator (uaprogressiveaction.com), Blackwell's photo at the CNP meeting was found on Blackwell's website on Monday, March 6. Then it mysteriously disappeared.
Blackwell has ample reason to hide his ties to the CNP. When the Free Press investigated the CNP and its ties to the Republican Party, Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates told the paper that the CNP included "a former Ku Klux Klan leader and other segregationist policies." Berlet emphasizes that these "shocking" charges are easy to verify.
Berlet describes CNP members as not only traditional conservatives, but also nativists, xenophobes, white racial supremacists, homophobes, sexists, militarists, authoritarians, reactionaries and "in some cases outright neo-fascists."
Some well-known figures affiliated with the CNP include Rev. Jerry Falwell, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and the Rev. Pat Robertson. But its the lesser-known CNP mainstays that are more indicative of the organization's politics. They include:
Richard Shoff, a former Ku Klux Klan leader in Indiana.
John McGoff, an ardent supporter of the former apartheid South African regime.
R.J. Rushdoony, the theological leader of America's "Christian Reconstruction" movement, which advocates that Christian fundamentalists take "dominion" over America by abolishing democracy and instituting Old Testament Law. Rushdoony's Reconstructionalists believe that "homosexuals . . . adulterers , blasphemers, astrologers and others will be executed," along with disobedient children.
Reed Larson, head of anti-union National Right to Work Committee.
Don Wildmon, TV censorship activist and accused anti-Semite.
Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North, Major General John K. Singlaub and other principals from the Iran-Contra Scandal.Investigative reporter Russ Bellant, author of OLD NAZIS, THE NEW RIGHT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY;THE RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT IN MICHIGAN POLITICS; and THE COORS CONNECTION, told the Free Press that the "membership of the Council comprises the elite of the radical right in America."
Blackwell is not the only Ohio Republican with ties to white supremacists, according to Bellant. He found ties between Senator George Voinovich and members of fascist groups formerly from Eastern and Southern Europe living in the Cleveland area.
In 1997, the Free Press disclosed that then-Republican Speaker Pro Tempore of the Ohio House, William G. Batchelder, was listed as a member of the little-known and highly secretive cabal, the CNP. Bellant told the Free Press in 1997, "the CNP is attempting to create a concentration of power to rival and eventually eclipse traditional centers of power in the U.S." Batchelder's wife Alice sits on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and was recently considered for the U.S. Supreme Court.
The CNP was founded in 1981. Moral Majority Leader Tim LaHaye assumed the presidency with the backing of Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. In 1982, Tom Ellis succeeded LaHaye as CNP president. Ellis was a director of the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that finances efforts to prove that African-Americans are genetically inferior to whites. Recipients of past Pioneer Fund grants include eugenicist William Shockley, Arthur Jensen and Roger Pearson. Pearson is on record advocating that "inferior races" should be "exterminated."
Newsweek reported that the CNP's first executive director, Louisiana State Representative Woody Jenkins, told CNP members, "I believe that one day before the end of this century, the Council will be so influential that no president, regardless of party, or philosophy, will be able to ignore us or our concerns or shut us out of the highest levels of government."
In 1999, GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush appeared before the secretive white supremacists at a gathering in San Antonio. Bush refused to make public his comments before the group. The CNP may have reached its intended goal of eclipsing all other power groups in U.S. politics when Bush took the presidency in 2000.
Jeremy Leaming and Rob Boston, writing for the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, detail the sordid history of the CNP in their article "Who Is The Council For National Policy And What Are They Up To? And Why Don't They Want You To Know?"
Blackwell is Ohio's Secretary of State, and a Republican candidate for governor. He was a highly visible "on the ground" player in the Bush election theft in Florida 2000. On Election Day 2004, he met in Columbus with Bush and Karl Rove to solidify plans for winning the Buckeye State's 20 electoral votes, which turned the election to Bush. Blackwell's extremely controversial handling of the election and the vote count have the prompted widespread belief that it, too, was stolen. The results ran counter to the historically accurate exit polls, and Blackwell has stonewalled three successive court battles against public scrutiny of the results and has resisted a verified, accurate recount.
The idea of an African-American like Blackwell speaking to a racist cabal like the CNP may seem incongruous. But Blackwell has been courting extremist right wing support for a long time. Most importantly he has been embraced and supported by Rev. Rob Parsley of the powerful World Harvest Church. Parsley is a wealthy right-wing extremist with a powerful grassroots network throughout the state, and a major stake in Blackwell's taking to the governorship. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. With Blackwell's continued control of the voting apparatus, the CNP and Republican Party could well step into an era of unchallenged national domination.
Not surprisingly, Blackwell and a few CNP members share crucial ties to the election/vote counting industry.
The electronic voting machine industry is dominated by only a few corporations - Diebold, Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and Sequoia. Together, Diebold and ES&S count an estimated 80% of U.S. black box electronic votes.
In the early 1980s, brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded ES&S's seminal corporation, Data Mark. The brothers Urosevich obtained financing from relatives of the far-Right-wing CNP-linked Howard Ahmanson in 1984, who purchased a 68% ownership stake, according to the Omaha World Herald. Ahmanson has also been a chief financier of Rushdoony's Christian Reconstruction movement.
Brothers William and Robert Ahmanson, cousins of Howard, infused Data Mark with new capital. The name was changed to American Information Systems (AIS). The Ahmanson brothers have claimed that they have no ties to their more well-known right-wing cousin.
But in 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that Howard and Roberta Ahmanson were important funders of the Discovery Institute, a fount of extremist right-wing publications, including much that pushes creationism in California schools. The Times said the Institute's " $1-million annual program has produced 25 books, a stream of conferences and more than 100 fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral research."
According to Group Watch, in the 1980s Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. was a member of the CNP. Heir to a savings and loan fortune, Ahmanson is little reported on in the mainstream U.S. press. But, English papers like The Independent are more informative. They list Ahmanson alongside Richard Mellon Scaife, one of the most important of all right-wing money men. "Such figures as Richard Mellon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson have given hundreds of millions of dollars over several decades to political projects both high (setting up the Heritage Foundation think-tank, the driving engine of the Reagan presidency) and low (bankrolling investigations into President Clinton's sexual indiscretions and the suicide of the White House insider Vincent Foster)," wrote The Independent last November.
The Sunday Mail described an individual as, ". . . a fundamentalist Christian more in the mould of U.S. multi-millionaire Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who uses his fortune to promote so-called traditional family values.. . . By waving fortunes under their noses, Ahmanson has the ability to cajole candidates into backing his right-wing Christian agenda."
Ahmanson is also a chief contributor to the Chalcedon Institute that supports the Christian reconstruction movement. The movement's philosophy advocates, among other things, "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards."
The Ahmanson brothers sold their shares in American Information Systems to the McCarthy Group and the World Herald Company, Inc. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel disclosed in public documents that he was the Chairman of American Information Systems and claimed between a $1 to 5 million investment in the McCarthy Group. In 1997, American Information Systems purchased Business Records Corp. (BRC), formerly Texas-based election company Cronus Industries, to become ES&S. One of the BRC owners was Carolyn Hunt of the right-wing Hunt oil family, which supplied much of the original money for the Council on National Policy.
The presence of Ahmanson relatives and Hunt's sister in e-voting software may be a coincidence. But it certainly raises questions as to why family members of anti-democratic forces are getting heavily involved in non-transparent election software. And why they are forging ties to the man in charge of counting votes in Ohio elections.
In 1996, Hagel became the first elected Republican Nebraska senator in 24 years when he did surprisingly well in an election where the votes were verified by the company he served as chairman, and in which he maintained a financial investment. In both his successful 1996 and 2002 campaigns, Hagel's ES&S counted an estimated 80% of his winning votes. Due to the contracting out of services, confidentiality agreements between the State of Nebraska and the company kept this matter out of the public eye. Hagel's first election victory was described as a "stunning upset" by one Nebraska newspaper.
Hagel's official biography states, "Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Hagel worked in the private sector as the President of McCarthy and Company, an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Nebraska and served as Chairman of the Board of American Information Systems." During the first Bush presidency, Hagel served as Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations (G-7 Summit).
Bob Urosevich was the Programmer and CEO at AIS, before being replaced by Hagel. Bob later headed Diebold Election Systems, but resigned prior to the 2004 election. His brother Todd is a top executive at ES&S. Bob created Diebold's original electronic voting machine software.
Thus, the brothers Urosevich, originally funded by the far Right, figure in the counting of approximately 80% of electronic votes cast in the United States.
That J. Kenneth Blackwell would now address an organization so thoroughly entwined with the extreme right wing and the electronic voting machine industry can hardly be seen as an accident. Blackwell's active presence in both Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 make him a critical player in the rise of the Bush regime. As governor of Ohio, he could solidify Republican control of presidential elections for decades to come.
Toward that end, the GOP-controlled Ohio legislature has passed a series of laws making it virtually impossible to monitor electronic voting in the state, or to challenge the outcome of a federal election here. The Free Press has also learned that county election board officials, in Blackwell's employ, have stripped nearly a half-million voters from the registration rolls in the key Democratic urban areas of Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati.
None of this has been seriously challenged by Ohio or national Democrats. And with Blackwell in the governor's mansion, in control of the state's vote counting apparatus, the Democrats will have virtually no chance of ever retaking control of the Ohio legislature, Congressional delegation or, for that matter, the White House.
Small wonder the powerful right wing extremist Council on National Policy would overlook its racist history to embrace an African-American like J. Kenneth Blackwell. Small wonder, also, Blackwell might want to hide what will certainly be a powerful and profitable association for him in his rise to the Ohio governor's mansion … and beyond.
--Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.